“I’m so excited for my new turntable.”
“Mom, does this mean you’re only buying records now?”
“And ignoring your CDs, satellite radio, and streaming music subscription?”
“No, I'll keep listening to all of it… I love music.”
“You collect music.”
“No I don’t.”
“Oh. So, you hoard it?”
How could I explain to my daughter, an artist, a book lover, and collector of Stranger Things paraphernalia, the difference between a "collection" versus an "amassing of things I love simply because I love them?" I reached out to Editor Fred to ask this very question.
“You might have hit on the difference between intentional and unintentional collections.” - Fred.
And thus, a blog post was born. Here we go:
Are creators collectors, whether unintentionally or not?
To examine this, let’s first begin with the intentional collection concept. These are the items we acknowledge as gathering for the sake of amassing, displaying, and keeping, or trading and selling to further our own hoard. Intentional collectors are often well-read and well-versed with regards to their collection, and have developed a deep emotional bond to their item(s) of choice. To the uncollectible eye, sometimes these collections appear senseless. Why spend so much, in terms of both time and financial investment, on items that sit on display in their sometimes-unopened-original-never-to-be-used states?
The answer lies in the emotional bond. It’s like falling in love. Sometimes you just do, and it ain’t no one else’s business. Like creating our own art, intentional collections are often an escapist mechanism, or a desire to fill a hole, a gap, or a space. Isn’t the collector’s endpoint the achievement of a completist state? A collection of perfection? Seems a little psychological if you ask me.
Here’s an interesting point raised in the concept. As intentional collectors, we’re accumulating all of these items, but as they collect on our shelves (and amass dust [probably]), they become increasingly depersonalized. We’ve taken them out of use and out of context in an effort to limit their rate of devaluation.
What made sense as one vintage typewriter that functions on our desk makes much less sense as ten vintage typewriters grouped together on a glassed-in bookshelf. Removing their functionality in this way is like taking away their names. Who are they at that point? Do they become anything again until they are sold off, one by one, as individuals to someone who will restore them to rightful desk glory?
Then there’s me, and in all likelihood, you: the unintentional collector. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve got collections. But when someone asks me what those collections are, do I say books? No, because I don’t think about books as being something I collect. I buy books to use them. They are read (mostly. Sometimes), donated, resold, borrowed, and shared. They pile up on shelves in a disorderly fashion, but are can be rearranged to look neat and pretty. At times, I’m focused on specific books, but others… I’m sad to say I’ve lost interest and they’ve gone back out into the world unread.
Guitars. Fountain pens. Art supplies. Journals. Vinyl records. Music equipment. DVDs. Shot glasses. Cameras. Pencils. Bags of coffee. Mugs. Stickers. Pins. Shoes.
For many, these form the unintentional collections of creators; the amassed items that have an emotional connection but don’t sit in their cellophane. Dust collectors? No way. We drink coffee out of these and spin them on our turntables. We dog-ear them and wear these things out. Often, the more worn, the more loved, and the more loved, the more proud we are to own them. (Except shoes.)
These unintentionals… we still escape into them. We value and emotionally connect to them. Sometimes we even seek the completist state. We might overpay. So then, what’s the difference when compared to the intentional collections? Don’t say the intention.
It’s the depersonalization. Rather, with the unintentional collection, the personalization. With the unintentionals, the everyday use remains. These “things” aren’t amassed to be taken out of context. By remaining in our everyday rotation and use, we pay homage to their purpose. But, ultimately, in doing so, we break them down. We fail to preserve their awesomeness.
Maybe it sounds like I’m making a case for one type of collecting over another, but in the words of me, “you do you.” Who am I to stand in your way if you like what you like? You should see the amount of vintage crap I have in my basement.
“You mean your basement hoard, Mom?”
“Why yes, sweet child, yes I do.”